Jewish Futures Project/Birthright Israel

Research Team

Birthright Israel/Jewish Futures Research Group

The faculty and staff involved in Birthright Israel-related research have extensive experience studying Jewish young adults. The biographies of the key staff are below.

Leonard Saxe, PhD is Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and directs the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University. He is the recipient of the 2012 Marshall Sklare Award. Professor Saxe's current research on the Jewish community involves socio-demographic studies of American Jewry and a program of research on Jewish education and its relationship to the Jewish engagement. He is the principal investigator of a longitudinal study of Birthright Israel. At the Steinhardt Institute, he is leading a program that is investigating the size and characteristics of the American Jewish population. Among his recent publications, he is co-author of a 2008 book, Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity, the story of Birthright Israel, an intensive ten-day educational program designed to connect Jewish young adults to their heritage.

Theodore Sasson, PhD (on leave 2016-17) is a senior research scientist at CMJS, professor of Jewish Studies at Middlebury College, visiting research professor of sociology at Brandeis University, and director of Programs for the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation. Author of scholarship in the fields of political sociology, international studies and criminology, Professor Sasson's current work examines Israel-diaspora relations, American Jewish identity and Israeli political culture. He is author of The New American Zionism (New York University Press, 2013) and “Divided, Not Distant: the Politics of Israel in the American Jewish Community,” in Contemporary IsraelNew Insights and Scholarship (Fredrick Greenspahn, editor, New York University Press, 2015). Professor Sasson’s recent scholarly articles include: Does Taglit-Birthright Israel Foster Long-Distance Nationalism?“Understanding Young Adult Attachment to Israel: Period, Lifecycle and Generational Dynamics" (co-author, Contemporary Jewry, 2012). Professor Sasson serves as co-principal investigator of evaluation research for the educational program Taglit-Birthright Israel, and as co-principal investigator for the Jewish Futures Project. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Israel Studies.

Charles Kadushin, PhD is professor emeritus sociology, Graduate Center, CUNY; distinguished scholar, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and visiting research professor, sociology, Brandeis University. He is the recipient of the 2009 Marshall Sklare Award.He has taught at Columbia University in the Sociology and Social Psychology Departments and at Yale University in the School of Management and in Graduate Sociology. Professor Kadushin received his PhD in Sociology at Columbia University and his AB at Columbia College. He is one of the founders of the social network field. Author of five books including, Understanding Social Networks: An Introduction to Social Network Concepts, Theories and Findings (2011, Oxford University Press), The American Intellectual Elite (1974, Little Brown, republished by Transaction Press with a new introduction in January 2006), and numerous journal articles.

Shahar Hecht, MA is a senior research associate at CMJS. She received a joint BA in Psychology and Business Administration from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also received an MA in Criminology. At the Cohen Center, she is the project manager for the Taglit-Birthright Israel evaluations and the Jewish Futures Project. She has worked on the evaluation of Birthright Israel international programs and on a study of Israelis who participate in Birthright Israel. In addition to Birthright Israel projects, Hecht has contributed to numerous other studies, including a study of Jewish young adults on college campuses and an evaluation of the needs of Nazi victims.

Graham Wright, PhD is an associate research scientist at SSRI and CMJS where he coordinates online survey implementation, survey design, and statistical modeling. He has also served as a teaching assistant for graduate and undergraduate level classes on statistics, survey methods, and evaluation research. Wright is a co-author and key analyst for numerous CMJS projects including the 2005 Boston Jewish Community study, the PEJE Day School Evaluation Study, Taglit-Birthright Israel evaluation and long-term impact studies, and evaluation of the greater Boston IACT initiative. He is a co-author of "Intermarriage: The Impact and Lessons of Taglit-Birthright Israel" recently published in Contemporary Jewry, Vol. 31, 2011. Wright received his PhD and MPP from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. .

Matthew Boxer, PhD is a research scientist at CMJS and SSRI and a lecturer in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.  He earned an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University and an MS and PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his doctoral dissertation focused on the effects of Jewish community size on Jewish identity. Boxer's research varies widely and includes socio-demographic research on the Jewish community in the United States, social psychological processes of Jewish identity development, Jewish young adults' volunteer habits and preferences, Israel studies on college campuses in the United States and Canada, and the impact of formal and informal Jewish educational experiences on Jewish identity.

Michelle Shain, PhD is an associate research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and at Brandeis University. She received an MA from the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a PhD from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Her dissertation focused on fertility among American Jews. Michelle has co-authored a number of articles in journals such as the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and Contemporary Jewry. Her primary research project at CMJS is the ongoing evaluation of Birthright Israel. She is co-author of Discovering Israel at War: The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel in Summer 2014 (2015) and Jewish Futures Project. The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel: Marriage and Family (2014).

Micha Rieser, MA is a research associate at CMJS. He has a BA in Religion from the University of Rochester and a MA from the Communication, Culture & Technology Program at Georgetown University. At CMJS Rieser works on managing and preparing survey data for analysis and on the preparation and documentation of public use datafiles.